Fashion vs. Basic Assortment Planning

Parker Avery Point of View

Developing the Appropriate Product Mix and Inventory Level to Maximize
Sales and Profit

by Anne Haertle and Courtney Albert

Assortment planning is a process whereby products are selected and planned to maximize sales and profit for a specified period of time. The assortment plan considers the financial objectives and seasonality of merchandise to ensure proper receipt flow. Outputs of assortment planning include initial purchase quantities and the receipt flow across time that will inform the allocation process. The level of detail in the assortment planning process will differ depending on the type of product being planned. For the purpose of this discussion, products are categorized into one of two product types - fashion or basic.

EXHIBIT 1 – Fashion vs. Basic Planning

Fashion vs. Basic Planning


The purpose of assortment planning is different for fashion product versus basic product. Fashion product follows the concept of assortment planning, with the objective of developing a product mix, whereas basic product utilizes the process of category management, with the goal of determining inventory levels.



Fashion Product Definition

Fashion product can be either softline or hardline and is identified as fashion if its lifecycle is short, i.e. the product's lifecycle will include a single selling season or less. Fashion products change frequently; the product delivered for a new season may be similar to product delivered in the past, but it is not the identical product. For example, colors may have changed for an outerwear jacket, or features may be updated for a boat. Fashion products require the assortment planning process to determine the amount of required receipts, which once derived are input to the allocation system.

EXHIBIT 2 – Fashion Product Assortment Planning Process: Fashion product utilizes the full assortment planning process that includes the following steps,

Fashion Product Assortment Planning Process

Basic Product Definition

Basic product can also be either softline or hardline and is identified as 'basic' if its lifecycle is long, i.e., the identical product will be delivered several times over the course of multiple seasons. Basic products essentially do not change; colors and features remain constant over the product's life. Sales and inventory for basic products are managed through the replenishment system. The assortment planning process serves as a checkpoint to determine if the product meets performance criteria and should continue to be included in the assortment.

EXHIBIT 3 – Basic Product Planning Process: Inventory management for basic products occurs in the replenishment system. The assortment planning process for basic products is modified,

Basic Product Planning Process

Basic products can be included in assortment plans, thus providing a complete picture of The Multi-Channel Retailer product offering. This complete picture is necessary to the proper management of the merchandise assortment and it can be difficult to make decisions about fashion products - i.e. what to include and what not to include - without understanding the entire product mix. It is important to note that detailed plans for each basic product should not be developed; as the time and effort is to plan each basic product in assortment planning is redundant and may be counter to the replenishment system. Basic products should be planned at an aggregated level, i.e., the portion of basic products in each class. This approach allows the appropriate resources to be devoted to developing Fashion product assortment plans.

Annually, each basic product's performance should be reviewed against the parent category's established sales and margin threshold by to determine if the product should be dropped from the assortment or continue in the assortment. Any product performing below the threshold is dropped from the assortment. The process of dropping basic products ensures freshness in the product offering and maximizes return on inventory investment.

EXHIBIT 4 – Advantages & Disadvantages of Fashion vs. Basic Assortment Planning

Advantages & Disadvantages of Fashion vs. Basic Assortment Planning


Based on the advantages, and disadvantages detailed above, The Parker Avery Group recommends Multi-Channel Retailer take a bilateral approach to the assortment planning process, utilizing a full assortment planning process for Fashion product and a modified assortment planning process for basic product.

If you’d like to learn more about our vision or understand how you might take advantage of this strategy, contact us at or call 770.882.2205.

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